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Twins Organizational Depth Chart: Relief Pitchers

8 Feb

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2012 – Now Available as an e-book for $6.99 by clicking here. You can, of course, still get the print version for $13.99 by clicking here

Today, we will conclude our Organizational Depth Chart by looking at the Relief Pitchers. Frankly, it is kind of a mess thanks to about 89 minor league veterans brought in, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. As I said on Monday, many starters will get time as a reliever, and vice versa. This is especially true in the lower levels of the minor leagues where innings limits are still so important. The Twins bullpen in 2011 was pretty much horrible. They had lost Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier, both guys who had long been in the Twins bullpen. They also let Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes, and Ron Mahay departed via free agency. Each made huge money for relievers in free agency. As I’ve said, I would have wanted to bring back Crain, but I definitely understood letting the others go. The Twins brought in some minor league free agents, but as they had done so many times before, they made the decision to build a bullpen from within. Needing two or three pitchers to step up, only Glen Perkins really stepped up throughout the season. Anthony Swarzak was a surprise success as well in long relief and as a spot starter. Joe Nathan struggled in his return. Matt Capps just struggled. Two pitchers that likely would have been counted on to perform, Jeff Manship and Anthony Slama were out most of the season with injuries. Had those two been healthy all season, it could have been a better situation. To the surprise of many, the Twins seem to have gone with much the same philosophy in 2012. Instead of going after retread relievers, they are choosing to believe in their in-house options. They brought back Capps, are taking a flyer on Joel Zumaya, and have invited a small village of minor league veteran pitchers with some big league experience. All in the attempt to hope that three or four of them step up. It’s a philosophy I completely agree with despite the fact that it went very wrong in 2011. Then again, pretty much everything went wrong for the Twins in 2011. Fortunately 2012 is a new year. You can clamor for guys like Dan Wheeler and Chad Qualls and Todd Coffey all you want. Or you can realize that they all struggled early in their careers and didn’t become big league regulars until late in their careers. They didn’t succeed in their first opportunities in the big leagues, and they have all had their struggles in the big leagues even after being given regular bullpen duties. So, although I am incredibly nervous about the Twins bullpen, and don’t have any idea how they will perform in 2012, I do think they have some talent, some young talent that should continue to get opportunities. That’s just smart.  Relievers who are good year in and year out are a rarity. Are there a dozen  in the entire big leagues that you could say have been lights out, have been difference-makers each of the past five seasons? (I’ll give you Mariano Rivera… you name another 10.) Because of that, bringing in 26-30 year olds with good arms and some measure of success makes a lot of sense to me.  

Below you will get a look at the names of many Twins minor league pitchers who will likely spend a lot of time in bullpens this upcoming season. I need to reiterate that these are just my thoughts. I have no insider information to know where players will be playing for certain in 2012. Obviously after spring training, some of these players will be let go. There will be Disabled List players, extended spring training and more.

Minnesota Twins  

Matt Capps (RHP), Glen Perkins (LHP), Joel Zumaya (RHP), Brian Duensing (LHP), Alex Burnett (RHP), Anthony Swarzak (RHP), Jeff Gray (RHP), Terry Doyle (RHP-R5)

Some Twins fans choose to say that Matt Capps has been pretty bad in two of the last three years. Since it’s less than two weeks before spring training, so I’ll say that he’s been really good in four of his last six seasons! If healthy, he’ll be solid at the end of games. I think Glen Perkins proved himself throughout the 2011 season to believe he can be a dominant lefty reliever again in 2012. Brian Duensing likely moves to the bullpen. He is one of baseball’s best at getting left-handed hitters out, but one of the worst at getting right-handers out. Joel Zumaya hasn’t pitched since 2010, and hasn’t pitched a full season since 2006, but I guess there is a chance he could be really good for half of the season! Anthony Swarzak is out of options and he really proved himself in long-relief and spot-starting last year. He could find himself being thrown into more high leverage situations in 2012. Alex Burnett has the arguably the best stuff in the bullpen and hopefully he will be able to put it all together. He won’t turn 25 until late July. If Terry Doyle pitches fairly well in spring training, I believe that he will make the team. If a starter is hurt, he could be the guy to make some starts early in the season, or he could be a long reliever. I also believe that Jeff Gray will make this roster as well. He is on the 40 man roster and out of options.  

Rochester Red Wings

Anthony Slama (RHP), Carlos Gutierrez (RHP), Lester Oliveros (RHP), Cole DeVries (RHP), Deolis Guerra (RHP), Kyle Waldrop (RHP), Esmerling Vazquez (RHP), Tyler Robertson (LHP), Jared Burton (RHP), Jason Bulger (RHP), Samuel Deduno (RHP), Phil Dumatrait (LHP), Casey Fien (RHP), Luis Perdomo (RHP), Daryl Thompson (RHP), PJ Walters (RHP), Brendan Wise (RHP), Luke French (LHP), Brad Thompson (RHP), Matt Maloney (LHP)

What a mess spring training will be? The Twins will have to play a few split-squad games to get all of these guys innings. Inexplicably, Anthony Slama has never been given a shot by the Twins despite 10.3 K/9 and a 2.59 ERA in 92 AAA appearances. I think Lester Oliveros has a chance to be pretty good but he needs more time. The Twins don’t need to rush him (like they did with Alex Burnett). The Twins claimed Vazquez from the Diamondbacks on the last day of the 2011 season. He’s a hard-thrower with control issues. The same can be said for Deduno and Perdomo. Kyle Waldrop finally got a shot with the Twins in September and he should be given a very legitimate opportunity to make the Twins opening day roster and get time throughout the season with the Twins. The two non-roster invites that have a legitimate chance of making the big league roster early in the season are Jared Burton and Jason Bulger. Each has had quite a bit of big league success. Burton has been hurt much of the past two seasons. Bulger spent a long time with the Angels. Phil Dumatrait got way too much time with the Twins last year. Carlos Gutierrez and Tyler Robertson were added to the 40 man roster this offseason. Gutierrez made the move to the bullpen last year and pitched pretty well until shoulder issues. Still walks too many though. Robertson was terrific in the second half of last season as the New Britain closer. The lefty may not throw hard, but he was quite successful in his first season in the bullpen. Cole DeVries had a tremendous 2011 including a very good performance in the hitting Arizona Fall League. Matt Maloney is on the 40 man roster. The left-hander was brought in before Terry Ryan was named GM, but as a former Reds pitcher, it is likely that he was recommended by Wayne Krivsky, which makes him intriguing. He is on the 40 man roster and out of options, but there is a chance he could go unclaimed. Non-roster invites Burton, Bulger, Deduno, Dumatrait, Fien, Perdomo, Walters, French and the two Thompsons all have spent some time in the big leagues. Liam Hendriks said in a recent podcast that Brendan Wise is similar to Kyle Waldrop in terms of ability to get a lot of ground balls. The Aussie has been very good in AAA the last two years. Finally, it is a huge year for Deolis Guerra. After being really bad as a starting pitcher, he moved to the New Britain bullpen last year and was incredible. Suddenly he had better control, gave up less hits and struck out more than a batter an inning. How will he perform in AAA in 2012? It will be interesting to watch. I suspect we will see him by season’s end. He has one option left.  

New Britain Rock Cats

Matt Hauser (RHP), Andrew Albers (LHP), Brett Jacobson (RHP), Daniel Turpen (RHP), Tony Davis (LHP), Blake Martin (LHP), Cole Nelson (LHP), Spencer Steedley (LHP), Ricky Bowen (RHP), Jhon Garcia (RHP), Bruce Pugh (RHP), Dakota Watts (RHP), Steve Hirschfeld (RHP)

Will any of the leftovers from the Twins minor league signings move down to AA? We shall see. Matt Hauser ended the 2011 season with one appearance with the Rock Cats. He is a hard-throwing right hander who I think will be a big breakout candidate in 2012. Andrew Albers was the story of the year in the Twins system last year and my choice for Twins Minor League Relief Pitcher of the Year. Brett Jacobson, Blake Martin and Spencer Steedley spent 2011 in New Britain, each splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. Turpen came over from Colorado in the Kevin Slowey deal. He throws hard and side-arm but gets no strikeouts. Bruce Pugh and Dakota Watts both had disappointing 2011 seasons between Ft. Myers and New Britain. Each struggled in the Arizona Fall League. But each throws really hard and if they can find any measure of control, they are legit prospects. Hirschfeld was my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month in both April and May. He struggled in June and moved to the bullpen, which is likely where he’ll wind up. Tony Davis is not a big guy, but he throws left-handed and touches 94-95 mph. He missed about half of last season with a shoulder surgery. He will be ready for spring training. Cole Nelson is a Minnesota native who came over from Detroit in the Delmon Young trade. Ricky Bowen signed with the Twins in May and did a nice job pitching out of the Ft. Myers bullpen. Jhon Garcia throws hard and can pitch in any role in the bullpen and spot start.

Ft. Myers Miracle

Jose Gonzalez (LHP), Michael Tonkin (RHP), Clinton Dempster (RHP), Bart Carter (LHP), Nelvin Fuentes (LHP), Edgar Ibarra (LHP), Kane Holbrooks (RHP), Matt Schuld (RHP), Brad Stillings (RHP), Caleb Thielbar (LHP), Blayne Weller (RHP), Miguel Munoz (RHP)

Jose Gonzalez was the closer in Beloit last year. He’ll likely continue in that role with the Miracle. He’s not tall and resembles Jose Mijares, but he throws hard and has a terrific slider. Michael Tonkin moved to the bullpen in 2011 and pitched very well. Dempster was terrific in the bullpen for Beloit but struggled upon his promotion to Ft. Myers. Carter dominated in Elizabethton and then pitched very well for the Snappers. A four year college guy, he should be pushed. Nelvin Fuentes has been pitching well for Puerto Rico in international competition. He has also steadily moved up the Twins system. The lefty works slow but he gets hitters out. Edgar Ibarra struggled in the Miracle rotation last year but finished strong in the bullpen. Kane Holbrooks had a tremendous 2010 season that saw him pitch well in Beloit, Ft. Myers and New Britain. 2011 was disappointing. He pitched well with no run support in April, but then he really struggled. He then missed the last couple of months. St. Thomas alum Matt Schuld pitched very well in Ft. Myers and then threw pretty well in New Britain. I only have him in Ft. Myers because of the numbers crunch at the higher levels. Caleb Thielbar became the first player the Twins signed from the St. Paul Saints and pitched in a few games for the Miracle. Blayne Weller pitched in the bullpen in Beloit although he ended the season pitching well as a starter. Miguel Munoz made his first start last year with the Miracle, hurt his elbow and then didn’t pitch again until late in the season. In his return to the Miracle, he re-aggravated the elbow injury and was shut down. Reports indicate that he did not have elbow surgery and rehabbed throughout the offseason.

Beloit Snappers

Corey Williams (LHP), Steve Evans (LHP), Steven Gruver (LHP), Jason Wheeler (LHP), David Hurlbut (LHP), Corey Kimes (LHP), Garrett Jewell (RHP), Cole Johnson (RHP), Tobias Streich (RHP), Jhonatan Arias (RHP).

Corey Williams was the Twins 3rd round pick just a year ago. The lefty signed for nearly double the slot recommendation. But the Twins are quite excited about him. He’s another hard thrower, said to have nasty stuff and a strong mentality. Evans, Gruver, Hurlbut and Johnson were all 2011 draft picks out of college that pitched well at Elizabethton during the summer. Kimes pitched in just a couple of games before suffering from mono. Jason Wheeler was the team’s 8th round pick and signed at the deadline. He will debut in 2012. Tobias Streich and Jhonatan Arias were both strong-armed catchers without much bat. Last year at Instructs, the two were moved from behind the plate to the mound. The Twins have done this in the past with mixed results. Tim Lahey was drafted as a catcher, but a year later he moved to the mound, and although he didn’t get to the big leagues, he spent 3 years in AAA as a reliever. Danny Santiesteban was an outfielder with a bunch of tools in the lower levels of the Twins system for a few years. He was moved to the mound but was released soon after. (By the way, Santiesteban has been a hitting star for the Newark Bears of the independent leagues the last couple of years.)

Elizabethton Twins

Luis Nunez (LHP), Ricardo Arevalo (RHP), Nathan Fawbush (RHP), Tyler Herr (RHP), Gonzalo Sanudo (RHP), Markus Solbach (RHP), Dallas Gallant (RHP)

Luis Nunez went 5-0 with 5 saves and a 1.67 ERA in 16 relief appearances in the GCL. The 20-year-old lefty throws gas with decent (but improving) secondary stuff. He is certainly one to watch. Tyler Herr is a tall right-hander who showed improvement in his second year in the GCL. Arevalo has gone 0-11 with a 4.37 ERA in 25 games over the past two years in the GCL. Nathan Fawbush is another tall kid with a lot of talent, but he has missed time each of the past two seasons since the Twins drafted him. Sanudo signed with the Twins in 2011 and in 20.2 innings in the GCL, he walked seven and struck out 22. He just turned 20. Markus Solbach signed about this time last year from Germany, and he went 3-3 with a 1.91 ERA in 28.1 innings in the GCL. He also pitched well in the World Cup.  Gallant had Tommy John surgery last spring and will be brought back slowly.

GCL Twins

Josh Burris (RHP), Josue Montanez (LHP), Gerardo Ramirez (RHP)

The Twins signed Ramirez last year out of Mexico and threw 17.1 innings in the GCL. He just turned 18. Montanez just turned 20 years old. He signed with the Twins last year as their 15th round pick a year after being taken in the 25th round in 2010 by the Padres. His first outing didn’t go well, and then he was really good his next seven outings. Josh Burris signed very late with the Twins last year out of LSU-Eunice. Last year, he played some 2B and some in the outfield. He hit .273 with a triple and a homer and stole 13 bases. He also was a reliever who walked too many. However, he hits 94 mph on the radar gun and is best known for his great 12-6 curveball.

TOP THREE (OR SO…) PROSPECTS

1.)    Corey Williams, 2.) Matt Hauser, 3.) Lester Oliveros, 4.) Deolis Guerra, 5.) Carlos Gutierrez, 6.) Luis Nunez, 7.) Tyler Robertson, 8.) Dakota Watts, 9.) Bruce Pugh 10.) Steven Evans

SUMMARY

The Twins bullpen was really bad last year. I don’t think there is any way around that. Glen Perkins stepped up, and once he was called up, Anthony Swarzak pitched well. If the Twins have any hope at being successful in 2012, they are going to need a few more guys to really step up. Capps is going to have to be healthy and pitch well. Zumaya may have to be healthy and successful. Duensing will have to fill the role of lefty-reliever. They brought in a bunch of minor league veterans, and it would be great if one or two of them would step up and contribute when called upon. There are several Twins minor leaguers who deserve an opportunity to step up, guys like Waldrop, Gutierrez, DeVries and even Anthony Slama. The Twins have made an effort to bring in some strong arms, and in doing so have found guys who also walk a bunch. In recent drafts, the Twins have also added some power arms to mixed results. Guys like Matt Hauser and Tony Davis could move up. 2011 draft picks Corey Williams, Matt Summers, Madison Boer, Trent Higginbotham and Josh Burris throw hard. Oh, and remember a couple of years ago when the Twins had something like three or four left-handed relievers in their entire farm system? Now, it appears that each team may have three or four lefties! There is definitely some talent in the bullpen, some very strong arms. Of course, we also have to remember that many starting pitchers who have decent stuff and aren’t working out as starters could be moved to the bullpen as well.  

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at sethspeaksnet@hotmail.com or leave your thoughts in the Comments Section!

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Opening Night Notes

8 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

 

Thank you for stopping by SethSpeaks.net. Before we get into the minor league game notes, I wanted to briefly touch on my thoughts on the Nishioka injury and what will happen. First, I thought that Swisher was well within his rights and the slide was hard but legal. Second, Nishioka’s feet were planted, something you don’t want for obvious reasons now. But it was a fairly close play at 2B and clearly Nishioka’s intent was not just to stand there. I’ve heard a couple of people blame Gardy and his coaches for not preparing Nishioka better. Yes, I too find that comical. It is an unfortunate injury, to be sure. A fractured fibula will likely cost Nishioka anywhere from four weeks to two months. Maybe longer. The Twins immediately put him on the Disabled List and to the surprise of no one, they recalled Luke Hughes from Rochester. (In as subsequent move, Toby Gardenhire will move from New Britain to Rochester.) Does it hurt to lose your starting second baseman and Number Two hitter? Of course. Does it somehow mean that the Twins 2011 season is over? Of course not. The Twins have overcome much more in recent years. Losing an MVP for a month. Losing an MVP for a half-season. Hughes will come up and hopefully be the primary second baseman. He won’t be as good defensively, but he will be fine. Offensively, he won’t be as good overall, but he can provide power and should do well against left-handed pitching. Yes, I would move Joe Mauer up to the #2 spot in the lineup, Delmon Young to #3, Cuddyer to 5 and Valencia to 7 with Hughes batting eighth. I think the idea of Alexi Casilla batting second is ridiculous. But even if they do go in that direction, the team will be alright.

Below are game notes and highlights from the Twins affiliates’ Thursday night games. As the season goes along, I will post highlights, extra base hits and pitching performances. I’ll also discuss some notes when applicable. Please feel free to share topic ideas or notes with me. If you have any articles on Twins prospects, notes or more, please feel free to e-mail me.

SethSpeaks.net Minor League Hitter of the DayRay Chang, New Britain Rock Cats

Seth Speaks.net Minor League Pitcher of the DayAnthony Swarzak, Rochester Red Wings

Red Wings Ramblings

Thursday – Red Wings 1, Pawtucket 2 – A slew of veterans played well, but Rochester starts off 2011 right where they left off in 2010, with a loss. Anthony Swarzak pitched very well. In 4.2 innings, he did not allow a run. In fact, he allowed three hits, walked one and struck out seven. He left with a lead and just one out from being able to record a win because he was at his 75-pitch limit. Yorman Bazardo came in and gave up two runs on two hits and two walks in just 1.1 innings to take the loss. Chuck James made his Red Wings debut and gave up one runs on one hit and one walk while striking out three in 1.2 innings. Alex Burnett came on to record the final out. Luke Hughes had been scheduled to play 2B and bat fourth for the Red Wings when, during batting practice, he was told he was heading to Minnesota. The offense managed just six hits in the game. Ben Revere had a double. Nine-hitter Rene Rivera collected the lone RBI with a long double. The Paw Sox threw four guys with big league time in the game. Scott Atchinson found out at the last minute that he was starting because the Red Sox had just called up Alfredo Aceves, who was supposed to start. Atchinson was followed on the mound by Rich Hill, Hideki Okajima and Michael Bowden. Led by three from Trevor Plouffe, the Red Wings had 13 strikeouts and no walks.  

On Friday, these two teams will play again, and Eric Hacker will be on the mound. He will be caught by the Red Wings second catcher Steve Holm who caught him last year in Fresno, the AAA-affiliate of the Giants.

Rock Cats Report

Thursday – Rock Cats 4, Richmond 6 – Ray Chang led the Rock Cats offense. He started at 3B and went 3-4 with two doubles and two RBI. Mark Dolenc went 2-4 and stole a base. The team got doubles from Yangervis Solarte, Joe Benson and Danny Lehmann. David Bromberg started on the mound. He gave up three runs on six hits and two walks in just four innings. Jake Stevens came in and threw two shutout frames, allowing a walk and a hit. Spencer Steedley returned after an arm surgery just last May. He struggled and gave up three runs (2 earned) on three hits and a walk in 1.2 innings. Tyler Robertson came on to record the final out.  

Deolis Guerra is scheduled to make the start for New Britain on Friday.

Miracle Matters

Thursday – Miracle 3, Jupiter 2 – The Miracle was the only affiliate of the Twins to record a win on Opening Night. Kane Holbrooks made the start. He gave up two runs on four hits and two walks in his five innings. Lefty Blake Martin came on and pitched two perfect innings. Jhon Garcia pitched a clean eighth inning. Hard-throwing Bruce Pugh came on for the ninth. He gave up one hit, but he struck out three batters to record his first save. Nick Romero led the offense by going 3-4. Aaron Hicks was 1-3 with two walks. He knocked a triple off the wall for his hit. Danny Rams was 2-3 and scored two of the Miracle’s runs. Brian Dozier went 1-3 with a walk and drove in two runs. Paul Kelly started at 3B and batted third for the Miracle. He was 0-4 with a walk.

Miguel Munoz will tote the rubber for the Miracle on Friday night in Jupiter.

Snappers Bites

The Beloit Snappers’ season opener in Quad Cities was postponed by rain. A week earlier, officials were not certain that the games could be played due to flooding concerns. BJ Hermsen will take the mound for the Snappers when they debut on Friday now. The two teams will try to play a doubleheader on Saturday.

Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions or comments today.

Roster Projections: Rochester Red Wings

29 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Step 1: Finalize 2011 Minnesota Twins roster – Check.

Step 2: Find a way to keep Scott Diamond in the organization – Check.

Step 3: Configure that 2011 Triple-A Rochester Red Wings 24-man roster – In progress.

Now that the Twins have set their own roster, what does it mean for the Triple-A team? After the Red Wings lost nearly 100 games last year, the Twins went out and acquired a lot of minor league veterans. They did this for a few reasons, but the primary one had to be to win more games and keep the Rochester fan base happy. Secondly, it does allow the Twins to be more patient with actual prospects so that they can play and develop at the proper pace. So, let’s take a look at a projected Red Wings roster. These are the guys who could be called up at any time to play for the Twins if needed. I will include whether or not they are on the Twins 40 man roster because if they are not, they will need to be added before being called up.)

(the below roster is my opinion and my guesses, and nothing official.)

Catchers: Rene Rivera (40 man – No) – Steve Holm (40 man – No) 

With Wilson Ramos with the Nationals and Jose Morales with the Rockies, the Twins went out and acquired two minor league veterans, each with Major League service time and many years of AAA experience. Danny Lehmann impressed in spring training and although I believe he will start at AA New Britain, he is also an option for a call up should Drew Butera be hurt.

Infielders: 1B – Jeff Bailey (40 man – No), 2B – Luke Hughes (40 man – Yes), 3B – Chase Lambin (40 man – No), SS – Trevor Plouffe (40 man – Yes), Utility – Michael Hollimon (40 man – No), 1B/DH – Erik Lis – (40 man – No)

Bailey and Lambin were the first two minor league free agents that they signed. Bailey got some playing time and displayed power with the Red Sox in parts of three season. He and Lambin both have a lot of experience. Lambin was an International League All-Star last year. Luke Hughes showed his power in spring training. He will just need to stay healthy in 2011 (something he hasn’t been able to do in recent years) and he will be with the Twins at some point. So will Trevor Plouffe, despite a tough spring. Bailey can play some right field. The other four infielders listed should move around the infield, including 1B, because their role with the Twins would likely be off the bench. Yes, it is possible that Toby Gardenhire is on the roster, although my guess is that he will be on the “Disabled List.” Steve Singleton and his organization-leading 43 doubles will likely begin the season back in New Britain due to the veterans brought in. Matt Brown and Ray Chang, who each got a Non-Roster Invite to spring training, are also possibilities for the Red Wings roster. Justin Huber, who was another Non-Roster invite, was recently released which likely means that Erik Lis could get a lot of at bats as the Designated Hitter. It is possible Chris Parmelee will end the season with the Red Wings.

Outfielders: LF – Dustin Martin (40 man – No), CF – Ben Revere (40 man – Yes), RF – Brian Dinkelman (40 man – No), 4th outfielder – Brandon Roberts (40 man – No).

Martin will return for his third season with the Red Wings. Dinkelman will be there for his second full season. Both should have better seasons in 2011. Brandon Roberts has missed so much time the last few years with leg injuries. When he was healthy last year, he played really well, and in 153 at bats with the Red Wings at the end of 2010, he hit .333. He has primarily played CF in his career. As mentioned above, Bailey can play right field. Ben Revere will be making his Triple-A debut in 2011, even though he made his major league debut in 2010. Some believe he is ready for the big leagues. I believe he is close, but getting a year at AAA can only help him. He will likely be the one promoted to the Twins if there is a need. Joe Benson and Rene Tosoni impressed in spring training, and Tosoni could be the first promoted to AAA, if needed.

Starting Pitchers: RHP Eric Hacker (40 man – Yes), LHP Scott Diamond (40 man – No), RHP Kyle Gibson (40 man – No), Chuck James (40 man – No), Anthony Swarzak (40 man – Yes)

Obviously Gibson is the guy that everyone is going to be anxiously waiting for, but it will be good for him to get at least another 12-15 starts in Rochester. Triple-A hitters frequently have some big league time, and it is a good transition for pitchers to get to see hitters who are usually much more patient. Swarzak lost a lot of weight and he has regained some of the velocity he showed two years ago. Hopefully he can regain some of the effectiveness. The Twins gave up a lot (Billy Bullock) to retain the services of Scott Diamond. Hopefully it will be a good move. Diamond has put up terrific numbers throughout his minor league career, never posting an ERA above 3.52 at any level and striking out 7.3 per nine innings. Chuck James has 24 big league wins, and went 10-1 between AA and AAA last year with the Nationals organization in his return from surgery. Hacker went 16-8 with a league-average 4.51 ERA last year in the Pacific Coast League. He didn’t have a strong showing in big league camp, but he can provide Rochester with a solid season. The surprise omission here is David Bromberg. He made nine starts with the Red Wings last year and pitched well. He was added to the 40 man roster after the season, and he is a very good prospect, but it could be a positive in the long run for him to get a few more starts in AA and use what he learned in AAA late last year and in spring training this year.

Bullpen: RHP Alex Burnett (40 man – Yes), RHP Kyle Waldrop (40 man – No), RHP Jim Hoey (40 man – Yes), LHP Phil Dumatrait (40 man – No), RHP Chris Province (40 man – No), Yorman Bazardo (40 man – No), Andy Baldwin (40 man – No) RHP Anthony Slama (40 man – Yes)

I assume based on his arm issues during spring training that Anthony Slama could start the season on the Disabled List. Jim Hoey was the last guy with a chance to make the team to be sent down. He and his fastball could be promoted soon if he shows any semblance of control. Kyle Waldrop made another very strong impression this spring, and with the open 40 man roster spots, he could be added if needed. Alex Burnett was on the Twins opening day roster one year ago without any time in Rochester. He was sent back down in July before a September call-up. He will get more opportunities with the Twins. Phil Dumatrait is a former first-round pick who has quite a bit of big league time. He was the #4 lefty on a roster that kept three lefties in the bullpen. Chris Province came to the Twins last year from the Red Sox in exchange for Boof Bonser. He pitched mainly in New Britain last year. He did make a couple of starts for the Red Wings late in 2010, but he is a bullpen arm. Bazardo pitched well for the Tigres de Aragua this winter in Venezuela and got a minor league deal with the Twins. Low strikeout numbers, but he could be a long reliever. Baldwin is a Minnesota native who has spent the last three seasons pitching in AAA for the Mariners organization. You likely noticed that I did not include Carlos Gutierrez on this roster which may be a surprise to you. It was also somewhat of a surprise to me as well because he ended 2010 with two games for the Red Wings. I just think that with the minor league veterans, it would be good for him to begin the season pitching as the closer in New Britain. Remember, he has been doing a lot of starting in his pro career. It will be good for him to get some development time in the late innings for the Rockcats.He will get to AAA quickly. Additionally, Ryan Mullins and Minnesota-native Cole Devries remain options for the Red Wings bullpen.

Overall: This is a very veteran team which should mean a lot more wins in Rochester in 2011. I do believe that it is best for most of the prospects in the system in the long run, but there are not many prospects to watch in Rochester this year. Ben Revere and Kyle Gibson are the two that would be deemed top prospects. Plouffe is still just 24 and a prospect, but he is now in his fourth season with the Red Wings. Hughes and Waldrop made great impressions in spring training again, and we could see both of them this year.. Hoey and Burnett are exciting, but no longer “prospects” due to their time in the big leagues.

Due to the minor league free agents, AA New Britain should be filled with several exciting prospects such as Joe Benson, David Bromberg, Chris Parmelee, Carlos Gutierrez, Dakota Watts, Steve Singleton and more.

The minor league rosters should be announced later this week as their seasons get started next week. It will be very interesting to see where some of the team’s top prospects end up. There were more releases in the last couple of days, a couple that surprised me, and there will likely need to be more in the coming days to bring the rosters down to the appropriate level.

If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment or ask.

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Still Building from Within

21 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net and www.startribune.com/blogs/twinscentric.

Look back a decade: Torii Hunter spent a couple of seasons making people wonder about his skills before becoming a star. Look back a generation: Frank Viola spent two seasons with a five-plus ERA before blossoming. Tell me why Casilla is utterly hopeless?

Howard Sinker in his A Fan’s View blog yesterday made a tremendous point. It is important to remain patient. Of course, in Viola’s third year, he posted a 3.21 ERA over 257.2 innings. I think Alexi Casilla will be fine. I think that Tsuyoshi Nishioka will be just fine. Will either post a .730 OPS? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t fill their roles adequately. I just don’t think that offense will be the biggest issue for the Twins in 2011. Pitching, both starting and bullpen, is where there are question marks, but the cupboard is not empty.

What I would like to see is if 29-year-old Scott Baker, in his seventh season with the Twins, can hit 200 innings (or post a sub-4.20 ERA) for just the second time, and earn his $5 million salary. I’d like to see Kevin Slowey, in his fifth big league season, be 100% healthy, and see what he can do. He threw 199 innings in 2007 between Rochester and Minnesota. I’d like to see Nick Blackburn get back to going 11-11 with an ERA between 4.03 and 4.05 like he did in 2008 and 2009. As bad as portions of their 2010 seasons were, none of this is unrealistic. They have done it before. Along with that, maybe Brian Duensing can prove a lot of us wrong and put together another strong season in 2011, hopefully the full season as a starter. And, Francisco Liriano put himself back in discussion for best pitchers in the league (which is also helped by Cliff Lee moving to the NL). If healthy, he can still continue to improve.

So, if Carl Pavano leaves for greener pastures in places like Washington, D.C., or Pittsburgh, it really is not the end of the world. What are the odds that he could post a 3.75 ERA again or throw another 221 innings in a season? Not terribly good.

The Twins have a history of building from within, or giving opportunities to players who have come up through their system, and to stand behind them through struggles. We have seen it time and again. And for the most part over the last decade, it has paid off. The Twins have used free agents to complement their core of home-grown players. Last year, there wasn’t a solid internal option at second base, so they signed Orlando Hudson.

Last week, the Twins lost Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier to free agency. It is likely that they will not bring back Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch or Ron Mahay either. Fans, understandably, are up in arms about the lack of certainty in the Twins bullpen. There is no certainty that Joe Nathan will return to form in 2011. Jose Mijares is immensely talented, but he was up and down in 2010. Matt Capps is the given in the Twins bullpen, and he is what he is (a solid reliever). Beyond that, there are a lot of question marks.

Twins fans don’t want to hear about someone like Glen Perkins being a bullpen option in 2011. There are also a lot of guys with little or no big league experience being mentioned as options. I understand that is scary. We want certainty in the bullpen, right? Certainty, in this case, would have been retaining Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier because they are veterans, right? But if I read the comments here at the StarTribune.com blogs or many Twins blogs, most blog commenters were not big fans of Jesse Crain. Most blog commenters were not exactly confident when Matt Guerrier would come into games. But aside from Rafael Soriano, Brian Fuentes and Type A free agent and former Twins pitcher Grant Balfour, few relievers have been more reliable than Crain and Guerrier. And you didn’t want them back. So, who would be out there at this stage that could be counted on more? I am a proponent of signing RHP Jose Veras and LHP Hideki Okajima, but in each case, there are reasons that their 2010 team non-tendered them. Certainly not guarantees.

Simply stated, there are very few reliable relief pitchers from year to year. Most (or at least many) relief pitchers are failed starters. There are a lot of injuries. It is in the bullpen where you can find diamonds in the rough. It’s where guys (like Guerrier) who are out of options to get an opportunity, and a few take advantage of it. Look at the Yankees’ David Robertson. In 2009, he was a question mark. In 2010, he was getting put into some pretty big situations for the pinstripes.

With that said, there are a lot of options for breakout types in the Twins bullpen. Remember that they only need three or four of these guys to produce for the Twins in 2011:

  • Anthony Slama – It amazes me that many Twins fans seem to think he can’t contribute to the team. Are people really willing to say that a poor 4.2 inning debut in the big leagues tells us that he can’t pitch up there? Really? His 1.95 ERA over four minor league seasons mean nothing? His 12.5 K/9 means nothing? His 1.06 WHIP? His 2.44 ERA in one-plus seasons at AAA mean nothing? Bloggers and blog commenters have been clamoring for Slama for a few years, and now they’ll give up on him? Because of 4.2 bad innings? I think Slama can be a solid 7th inning guy.
  • Alex Burnett – he has a chance to be really good. He came up as a starter, a successful starter, but in 2009, he moved to the bullpen. Despite not pitching in AAA, and only a short time in AA, he was on teh Twins Opening Day roster and spent most of the first half with the Twins. He struggled as the season went along, but he has great stuff and will definitely be back with the Twins, eventually pitching late innings.
  • Pat Neshek – It amazes me how quickly some Twins fans turned on the sind-winding reliever. Yes, his velocity was down. I get that. But this year, he will get an actual offseason of working out and preparing, not an offseason of rehabilitation. Will he come back and be as incredible as he was in 2006 and 2007? Maybe, maybe not, but I’m willing to give him that opportunity.
  • James Hoey – Similarly, there was a lot of excitement about Hoey with the Orioles in 2006 and 2007. The righty throws hard and was generally thought to be the closer of the future with Baltimore. And then he had shoulder surgery, and he worked his way back up the ladder. His velocity is back. The strikeouts are back. He will need to cut down walks, but he is a power arm that the Twins bullpen needs.
  • Rob Delaney – Delaney was undrafted in 2006 and dominated the lower levels of the minor leagues, including AA. AAA has been more of a struggle, but consider that in 80 AAA innings, he walked just 23 and struck out 92. Sure, his one inning in the big leagues last September wasn’t pretty. He looked nervous and gave up a homer, a single and a walk before getting the three outs. But again, I’ve heard some say that he can’t handle the big leagues because of that one outing.
  • Kyle Waldrop – It surprised a lot of people that the Twins didn’t protece Waldrop after a terrific 2010 season with the Rochester Red Wings. Since returning from his shoulder surgery, he has been incredible out of the bullpen. After 20 games in Ft. Myers, he posted a 1.46 ERA in 31 New Britain games. He posted a 2.57 ERA in 2010 in Rochester, but his ERA was at ONE halfway through the 2010 season. Yes, he was not good in the Arizona Fall League, but he still has a chance to be a very good, groundball reliever.
  • Glen Perkins – A left-hander who did succeed a few years ago as a starter, he looks to be a lefty reliever in 2010. Of course, he doesn’t get left-handed batters out, so I just don’t know how he can contribute, but stranger things have happened when players get opportunities.
  • Eric Hacker, Yorman Bazardo, Jeff Manship, Anthony Swarzak, Chuck James – These guys could all get an opportunity for a long relief role. Manship filled the role toward the end of 2010 and could do so again, but the others are options.
  • Carlos Gutierrez – In a podcast just last week, Gutierrez informed me that he wants to pitch out of the bullpen, that it is where he is ‘at home.’ However, he acknowledged that spending the last couple of years as a starter has been valuable in helping him develop secondary pitches. I’m frequently asked who could be the 2011 version of Danny Valencia. Kyle Gibson certainly could come up in June and contributed as a starter. Carlos Gutierrez could come up in June and really help out the Twins bullpen.

Are any of those big name acquisitions? No. They are internal options. Can any of them contribute to the Twins in 2011? Absolutely. Can three of four of them join Nathan, Capps and Mijares to form a solid bullpen? Defintely. Am I just trying to be positive here? Probably. But can the internal choices be equal or better than the external, high-cost free agents? Absolutely.

The Twins historically have relied upon their own players, on building from within. It’s been a philosophy that has worked well for them. Even if their payroll has gone from $65 million to $100 million to $115 million, there is no reason to start spending foolishly on free agents or giving up the farm for players who might help. Can the Twins win the division with their current roster? I think so. It’d be tough, but I would not put it against them.

To be fair (and honest), I have been immensely frustrated with the Twins offseason. I expected them to wisely stay away from high-dollar free agents. I thought we might hear more about trades than we have. The Twins might soon spend a lot of money for two or three years on a guy who is already 35 years old. They could also give two years to a 40 year old one-dimensional player. I’m sure those moves will make a lot of fans happy. Maybe I’m strange. I figure there are six or seven weeks until pitchers and catchers report, so I still hold out that the team will add an impact player, the type of player who can make a difference without breaking the bank. But I don’t know that the team is better. I also don’t know what the Twins plans are, or their contingency plans are (if Pavano and/or Thome were to sign elsewhere). No one does because the Twins front office is great at not letting information leak We can’t all be Jim Breen!

Finally, Twins fans need to remember one important thing… at least the Twins and their stability is a lot better than following the Vikings and their chaos this year!

MORE TO READ TODAY:

Here are a few more articles for you to peruse throughout the day:

·         JJ Stankevitz has been a frequent guest of the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. He does a great job as the blogger for the White Sox site on Examiner.com. He is also a student at the University of Missouri where he writes for KBIA Sports Extra as well. He recently had the opportunity to meet fellow Missouri student/alumni and current Twins prospect Kyle Gibson. The results were a terrific article on Gibson.

·         Parker from Over the Baggy posted an article on the blueprint for a bullpen.

·         Needless to say, Fanatic Jack is Dazed and Confused about what is going on with the Twins offseason. It is really hard to disagree with him.

·         Twinkie Town has now completed its Top Ten Twins Prospects and you can now vote for Twins Prospect #11. Roger Dehring is going a great job of running the polls, and the discussion is terrific for anyone interested in Twins prospects.

Be sure to tune in to tonight’s SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast, live at 9:00.

Twins Bullpen Blitz

14 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net and www.StarTribune.com –

It will be another offseason full of difficult decisions for the Minnesota Twins front office. There are double-figure free agents. They have two contracts with 2011 options that they need to determine if they should be picked up. There could be as many as nine arbitration situations. Although the Twins have a fairly solid core of players under contract for 2011, it will be interesting to see how those players are complemented.

One area that could experience the most turnover is in the bullpen. Over the last decade, Twins fans have seen how important a strong bullpen can be as well as how much it can hurt if the bullpen struggles. Even with Joe Nathan out for the entire 2010 season, the Twins went into the playoffs with what was believed to be solid, deep bullpen.

However, that group in the bullpen was comprised of several players who may not be in a Twins uniform in 2011 for various reasons. Here is what we know today:

Joe Nathan – We know that the Twins will be paying the veteran closer $11.25 million for the 2011 season even if we can’t confidently predict how good and how healthy he will be.

Matt Capps – He has a year of arbitration left. Looking historically at closers in their final arbitration year, it is likely that Capps could demand somewhere between $7 and $9 million in 2011. He was solid in 2010, and he would provide insurance should Nathan not be ready. He is prone to allowing plenty of base runners.

Jesse Crain – Despite the hanging slider to Mark Teixeira in Game 1, Crain proved himself to be one of baseball’s better relievers through most of the 2010 season. He is a Type B free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepted, he could make $3 to $3.5 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines it, the Twins would get a supplemental 1st round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. After his season, it is likely that Crain could command a three or four year contract at an average of $3.5 to 4 million a season.

Jon Rauch – He was solid as the Twins closer through most of the season’s first half. Very hittable, but he racked up good save totals. He was also so bad late in the first half and early in the second half that the Twins had to trade their most big-league ready prospect for Capps. He also would be a Type B free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepted, he could earn as much as $4 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would get a supplemental 1st round draft pick when he signs elsewhere. He could likely get a two year contract in the neighborhood of $5 million.

Matt Guerrier – Guerrier has racked up the relief appearances over the last four years. He has remained remarkably durable. He has also pitched at a very good level, well enough that he would be a Type A free agent. If the Twins offer him arbitration, and he accepted, he could earn $4 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would get the signing team’s first round pick next summer (unless the signing team owns one of the first 15 picks in draft, in which case, the Twins would receive their 2nd round pick) and a supplemental first round pick. Because he isn’t a strikeout pitcher, Guerrier could struggle to find a team willing to give up and early draft pick to sign him. If the Twins do not offer him arbitration, Guerrier could probably sign a two year deal worth between $6 and 7 million total.

Brian Fuentes – The Twins got a good one when they acquired Fuentes from the Angels. The 35 year old southpaw was amazing against left-handed bats. He led the league in Saves in 2009 and recorded 25 saves with the Angels in 2010 before the trade. He made $9 million in 2010. He becomes a Type B free agent because his 2011 option would only vest with 55 games finished (he finished 35 total in 2010). If the Twins offer him arbitration and he accepts, the Twins would likely pay him between $9 and 10 million in 2011. If the Twins offer him arbitration and he declines, the Twins would gain a supplemental 1st round pick next summer. If the Twins do not offer arbitration, he could sign with a team needing a closer and get two years and $14-15 million. Or, if all teams see him as an 8th inning lefty type, he could still get two years and $8-9 million.

Clay Condrey, Randy Flores, Ron Mahay – We have to assume that these free agents will not be back with the Twins in 2011, and if so, it would be like Mahay’s minor league deal signed late in spring training.

Pat Neshek – He made $650,000 in 2010, his first arbitration year. If he is offered arbitration, he likely would be in the $650,000 to $750,000 range. If not, he would become a free agent.

Glen Perkins – Perkins got enough time in 2010 with the Twins to make himself arbitration-eliglble this offseason, a year later than he wanted. He would probably make $750,000 in arbitration, if offered.

Jose Mijares, Alex Burnett, Jeff Manship, Anthony Slama, Rob Delaney, Kyle Waldrop, Anthony Swarzak, Jose Lugo – These pitchers all have less major league service time than required to be arbitration eligible, so they would make about the league minimum, around $420,000. Mijares would likely be closer to $450,000-500,000.

More to Consider:

  • The Twins bullpen generally consists of six and sometimes seven relievers, including the closer.
  • Joe Nathan is pretty much untradable right now. Until he proves he is healthy, the assumption must be that he will be paid by the Twins.
  • There are free agent bullpen options left and right, many of whom will be available and looking for a job as spring training approaches. So your bullpen does not completely need to be filled by the above players.
  • It cost top prospect Wilson Ramos to acquire Matt Capps from the Nationals. There is no way that the Twins would non-tender Capps. But think about this; would you rather have Matt Capps at $8 million, or bring back Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier at a combined $7 million? Would you rather pay Capps $8 million. Could the Twins trade Capps before arbitration to bring back more young talent?
  • How much money should the Twins tie up in the bullpen? Potentially $20 million is locked up between Nathan and Capps. If we assume a $110 or even $120 million payroll, how many dollars should the bullpen cost?
  • With that in mind, would you rather have Capps at $8 million or JJ Hardy $6 million and a veteran, right-handed bench bat who could spell Justin Morneau at 1B for $2 million?
  • If the Twins bring back Carl Pavano and pay him $9 million in 2010, there could be a starter or two who would pitch out of the bullpen. Francisco Liriano and Brian Duensing will be in the rotation. Scott Baker will get a big pay raise in 2011, so he should start. Nick Blackburn’s salary jumps up to $3 million in 2011. Kevin Slowey could get $2 million or so in his first year of arbitration. Without a trade, there are six starters right there, and one would likely get pushed to the bullpen.
  • And that doesn’t even take into account a couple of pretty strong starting pitching prospects in Kyle Gibson and David Bromberg, both of which could be ready by June for the big leagues. It also doesn’t factor in a couple of very hard-throwing bullpen arms who could be ready soon like Carlos Gutierrez or Billy Bullock.

So, if you’re the GM, and you have to worry about a payroll, and you alone have the final call on the Twins roster, what does it look like? Which free agents do you offer arbitration? Which do you want back? Which young pitchers do you want to be on the big league roster? How do you make it all work?

The TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook is now available for pre-order at just $4.95 for the first 500 copies sold THIS WEEK. To learn more about the entire Twins roster, all the questions they have to ask, and the options that they may have, this is a must-have electronic book. We will look at the 40 man roster decisions, outline the entire Organizational Depth chart, review the cases for and against the many Twins players eligible for arbitration, look at the Twins players who can become free agents, look at other players around the league who will be available via free agency as well as potential trade targets. This book is as comprehensive as it gets. If you’re not convinced, you can get last year’s version for FREE as a sample of what you will be getting.

PODCASTS – Last night, the Twins Geek and I were both on Fanatic Jack’s podcast and we talked about all of the Twins free agents and arbitration-eligibles and some possible trade candidates. It was a lot of fun and if you have a chance, please listen to it here. Of course, if you missed my podcast on Tuesday night, you can http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sethspeaks/2010/10/13/sethspeaksnet-weekly-minnesota-twins-podcastlisten to that here.

BLOGS

Arizona Fall League

The AFL is back in swing now and the Twins prospects are playing for the Peoria Saguaros. In their first game, on Tuesday night, Chris Parmelee went 1-4 with a double. Joe Benson was 0-2. Ben Revere was 0-1. Tyler Robertson gave up one run on a hit and three walks in his first inning. Kyle Waldrop gave up two runs in his two innings. Last night, Ben Revere went 1-4 with an RBI. Chris Parmelee was 2-4. Joe Benson went 1-3 with a run scored. Carlos Gutierrez struck out two in a scoreless inning. The one Twins prospect that has not played in their first two games is David Bromberg. The righty will start for the team on Friday.

Lots of things covered above, please Leave your comments here.

Monday Morning Notes

23 Aug

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It’s going to be a quick update today. Got back from the lake pretty late last night and decided that sleep would be for the best. So, I woke up really early instead and jotted down a few notes. Today, please feel free to comment with any other thoughts that you have after a weekend series win against the Angels. Seriously, this team is playing so well right now. They won two out of three against the Angels, and two out of three against the White Sox. They had a nice 7-2 home stand and have been one of baseball’s best teams since the All Star break. The team headed to Texas late after last night’s game, and will now start a four game series against a very good Texas Rangers team. These games are important. You see, the Twins and Rangers are the current leaders in their respective divisions. Between those two teams (assuming they are the two division’s representatives in the playoffs), the team with the higher record will have home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs against the Wild Card team. They play seven games before Labor Day, and they are important. Here are some thoughts on the Twins, but please feel free to add storylines if I missed any because I had to listen to the game on Friday night, only watched bits and pieces of the Saturday game and thanks to spending more time at the lake than planned on Sunday (a good thing), I had to listen to most of the Twins game, although I also had to spend most of the drive listening to kids’ songs.

  • Unfortunately, arguably the biggest story of the weekend was more injuries. Before the weekend started, Nick Punto was put back on the Disabled List, and Matt Tolbert was brought back. Saturday’s game was painful in a few ways. Kevin Slowey got hit in the second inning, and he left the game after the third inning with that pain behind his right elbow again. Later in the game, Ron Mahay injured his non-throwing shoulder. The two were put on the Disabled List following the game, and Nick Blackburn and Anthony Slama were called back up. Blackburn makes sense for two reasons. First, there isn’t exactly a better option at Rochester, and he has been solid there. Second, this team made a serious commitment to him this spring and will continue to give him opportunities. He has done it before and should be able to do it again. He was supposed to start for Rochester on Monday night, but instead will start for the Twins. In doing so, the Twins also pushed Francisco Liriano back to Thursday, giving him an extra three days to rest his “tired arm” I know some people don’t like that and may want him to push through it, but this is the smartest thing to do. The team has a five game lead in the division and can afford to do this. No, that doesn’t mean they are giving away anything, but Liriano is so important to this team that you have to make sure he’s right, and he’s strong, especially in September and October. And the other promotion with Anthony Slama who has certainly had some ups and downs since his return to Rochester, but is a good pitcher.
  • With Mahay on the DL, and Glen Perkins unable to get left-handed hitters out, the Twins are essentially without a Left-handed relief specialist. Unfortunately, Jose Lugo is the lone lefty in the Rochester bullpen and he’s been overused and has an ERA over 6, and walks too many. Ryan Mullins is a soft-tossing starter, but he’s out for the year with a back injury. In New Britain, Tyler Robertson (a good prospect, young, left-handed) has been pretty bad in his first AA attempt. Blake Martin was just promoted from Ft. Myers.2009 draft pick from the University of Florida, Tony Davis, is probably the lefty in the minors most ready to help the Twins, but he is walking a ton. I have no doubt that the Twins are claiming any left-handed reliever that is being put through waivers. But I also think that having a lefty specialist is quite as big of a deal as many seem to think.  The Angels won a World Series several years ago with no lefties in their bullpen. Of course, that requires that the right-handers in the bullpen actually get left-handed bats out. Or… 2010 third round pick Pat Dean, a lefty out of Boston College, is dominating at Elizabethton. Maybe he can be the Twins’ version of Chris Sale!!
  • The Twins added another game to their division lead over the White Sox this weekend thanks to some horrific scheduling. When Friday night’s game between the White Sox and the Royals was rained out, they scheduled a double-header for Saturday night. Instead of playing a day-night double header with the first game at noon and the second at the normal time, they played two games at night… In fact, the second game didn’t start until after 11:00 central time because the first game went 11 innings (and the Royals won!). That second game didn’t finish until after 2 a.m. which is terrible, and the teams had to play another 1:00 game on Sunday. Three games started and completed within about a 22 hour period. I don’t care if I’m happy that the White Sox lost two of those three, that kind of scheduling isn’t fair for anyone!
  • There are sayings that ball players use sometimes to talk about a batter taking really good swing. “Good wiggle!” “Swing out of your shoes!”  Well, after watching the swing that Danny Valencia put on his home run ball, I think those could apply as he took one of the biggest swings I have seen in a long time. Fortunately, he connected and gave the Twins a needed first run in last night’s game. With Punto back on the DL, Valencia is going to continue playing 3B. He would have anyway, even with Punto back, but Punto could have given him a day off a week or so. With Matt Tolbert as the backup option, let’s hope that Valencia doesn’t get too many more days off!
  • At 9:30 tonight, I’ll be hosting the SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast. Tune in, ask questions. I’ll be taking your questions or comment on the Twins and their minor leaguers throughout the show.

Here are some notes from Sunday’s minor league games:

  • Rochester 3, Lehigh Valley 1 – Anthony Swarzak won for the fifth time this season. The righty gave up one run on five hits in 6.2 innings. He walked one and struck out four. Rob Delaney got the next four outs, two via the strikeout. Alex Burnett gave up a hit and a walk but pitched a scoreless ninth for the save. Brendan Harris and Brock Peterson each went 2-3 with a walk.
  • New Britain 3, New Hampshire 6Tyler Robertson gave up six runs on seven hits and four walks in 4.1 innings to take the loss. Loek Van Mil gave up a hit, walked three and struck out two in 1.2 scoreless innings. Tony Davis threw two shutout innings. The Rockcats managed just three hits.
  • Ft. Myers and Bradenton had their game suspended in the 2nd inning. 2010 draft pick and St. Cloud State alum David Deminsky made the start for the Miracle and struck out two in two scoreless innings before the rains came.
  • Beloit 5, Burlington 8Edgar Ibarra gave up six runs (3 earned) on seven hits and three walks in five innings. Zach See then gave up two runs on three hits and a walk in his two innings. Andrei Lobanov pitched one scoreless inning. Daniel Santana was 2-4 with a walk and his second triple. Wang-Wei Lin went 2-2.
  • Elizabethton 2, Bluefield 0 (10 innings) – The winning run scored on a wild pitch, but the E-Twins are in a close division race, so they’ll take them any way they can get them. Logan Darnell started and gave up just two hits in seven shutout innings. He walked four and struck out ten. Dallas Gallant then threw two scoreless innings before Jose Gonzalez came in and recorded his fifth save. The E-Twins managed just four hits. Derrick Phillips hit his fourth double.
  • The GCL Twins had Sunday off.
  • Cole DeVries is on his way to Rochester. Will he start in place of the scheduled Nick Blackburn tonight?

Any questions or comments on the Twins or the minor league system? Feel free to leave your questions and comments here.

The Bunt

21 Jul

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net –

Seriously? Bunting. In that situation? Believe me, I get what Joe Mauer was thinking, and he is a very good bunter. No question about that. But at that time in the game, the late innings, you want and need your #3 hitter to attempt to drive in the go-ahead run. I say “Attempt” because we don’t know what would have happened. He very easily could have grounded into a double play. He could have drawn a walk. He could have popped up. He could have homered. Who knows?

And I do get the theory in Mauer’s head. He is not selfish. He isn’t selfish and wants to show his confidence in teammate Jason Kubel, even against a left-handed pitcher. He doesn’t feel the need to play hero. Unfortunately (for him), his spot in the batting order, and his mega-contract dictate that he be selfish and go out and win a ball game for his team. Fair or not, that is what he needs to do.

It makes us realize that batting average doesn’t matter, and many other stats don’t matter. As we are no insisting and understanding that a middle-of-the-order hitter go out and drive in runs can no longer argue that RBI are overrated stats. I was one who always thought that RBI were too much a result of opportunity, and I still believe that they are. But teams pay for the guys who produce, and that does mean RBI.

Kevin Slowey was solid. I would say if we are looking at the most recent starts of Slowey, Baker and Blackburn, Slowey’s was the best, and Baker’s was the worst. Does that mean that Blackburn is the one out of the rotation when Duensing jumps into the rotation? Does Blackburn go to the bullpen or to Rochester? What do you think is going to happen?

Is it just me, or is Carlos Santana pretty good?

Here are some quick notes on what happened in the Twins minor league system on Tuesday:

  • Rochester lost 1-0 to Buffalo on Tuesday afternoon. Anthony Swarzak pitched really well. In seven innings, he gave up just one run (in the 7th) on the six hits and two walks. He struck out nine. Brad Hennessey threw two shutout innings. Unfortunately the Red Wings managed just three hits off of former Twin Ramon Ortiz.
  • New Britain was shutout 2-0 by Harrisburg. The Rockcats had just four hits. Steve Singleton went 2-4, and Joe Benson hit his 14th AA double. Tyler Robertson had his second straight good start. He threw six shutout innings. He allowed six hits and a walk while striking out five. Chris Province went 1.2 innings and gave up two runs on three hits. Tony Davis struck out the one batter he faced.
  • Nate Hanson singled in Deibinson Romero with the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning. Allan de San Miguel went 3-3. Evan Bigley went 2-4. Dan Osterbrock continued his excellent pitching. He reduced his ERA to 2.62 In eight innings, he gave up one run on eight hits. He walked one and struck out eight. Joe Testa struck out three in three shutout innings.
  • There were no games scheduled in the Midwest League on Tuesday.
  • Elizabethton lost to Johnson City 4-3. Blayne Weller gave up two runs (1 earned) on six hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out nine. Jean Mijares gave up two unearned runs on two hits in an inning. Zach See struck out two in a scoreless inning. Daniel Santana went 3-5. Buddy Munroe went 2-4 with his third double. Oswaldo Arcia went 2-4 with a walk and his 11th double.
  • The GCL Twins beat the GCL Orioles 11-10. Eddie Rosario went 4-5 with his eight double, first triple, three RBI and 12th stolen base. Kennys Vargas hit three doubles in five at bats. Matej Hejma went 3-4 with a walk. Jorge Polanco went 3-4 with three RBI. Kelvin Silvania and Jairo Rodriguez each had two hits. Pedro Guerra gave up only an unearned run in six innings. He gave up four hits, walked one and struck out three. Tyler Herr then gave up four runs on three hits and two walks in his inning. Bart Carter then gave up five runs on seven hits in two innings.

And for more about The Bunt Heard ‘Round the State, check out this excellent article by 1500espn’s Tom Pelissero.

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